Palestinian negotiators have been considering an Egyptian proposal to end the month-long Israel-Hamas war as the latest 72-hour ceasefire in the Gaza Strip is due to expire.
Since the truce, which will expire at midnight, went into effect on Sunday, Israel has halted military operations in the coastal territory and Gaza militants have stopped firing rockets.
The ceasefire was meant to give the two sides time to negotiate a more sustainable truce and a roadmap for the coastal territory.
A member of the Palestinian delegation to Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo said today that his team was considering an Egyptian proposal, which was tabled yesterday. Egyptian mediators have been ferrying between the Palestinians and their Israeli counterparts in an attempt overcome the differences between the sides.
The Egyptian proposal calls for easing parts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, bringing some relief to the territory, according to Palestinian officials in the talks. But it leaves the key areas of disagreement, including Hamas’ demand for a full lifting of the blockade and Israeli calls for Hamas to disarm, to later negotiations.
The Palestinian negotiator said he had some reservations about the proposal and would try to improve it. “We would like to see more cross-border freedom, and also to have the question of a Gaza seaport and airport discussed,” he said.
An Israeli government spokesman had no comment on the negotiations.
In recorded remarks broadcast on Hamas radio, Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas leader in the region, said that “achieving a permanent truce can come only through lifting the blockade on Gaza”.
Amid the ceasefire, an Associated Press video journalist and a freelance Palestinian translator working with him were killed today when ordnance left over from the war exploded as they covered a story about the conflict’s aftermath.
Italian national Simone Camilli, 35, and Ali Shehda Abu Afash, 36, died when an unexploded missile believed to have been dropped in an Israeli airstrike blew up as Gazan police engineers worked to neutralise it in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya.
The war began on July 8 with Israel’s air campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers, whom Israel blamed for the kidnapping and murder in June of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Nine days later, Israel sent in ground troops to destroy Hamas’ underground cross-border tunnels constructed for attacks inside Israel.
The fighting has so far killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, Palestinian and UN officials say. On the Israeli side, 67 people have died, all but three of them soldiers.
The latest outbreak of fighting is the third between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since Hamas took over control of the densely-populated territory in 2007.
Hamas has been consistently pushing for an end of an Israeli Gaza blockade, which Israel says is necessary to prevent the group from gaining access to weapons and munitions it deploys against Israelis.